Thursday, 2 July 2015

#EdVentures Part 8: ISTE - The Perfect Balance

I've just spent four days at ISTE and while I could share how technology can be integrated to promote student learning, I decided to compare my two ISTE experiences.

Two years ago, my son and I returned to California as my son's best friend was battling a very aggressive cancer. His friend's parents had shared with me what a wonderful son we had raised. Harrison had attended his friend's treatments, made him laugh and was part of their family again. I was so proud! This US trip provided time for some great mother-son bonding. He was 17 years old and had had to deal with some of life's hard truths. Sadly. there are some things in life you can't  protect your children from. I knew that he needed support and time, as he had lost another friend (Australian) to cancer the year before. I asked Harrison if he would like to go to San Antonio for a few days since ISTE was there. 

We left Pasadena and flew to San Antonio. During the day I went to ISTE, so Harrison was free to do 'whatever'. He was happy with this arrangement as he had spent 10 years of his life living in the US, so everything was very familiar to him. Probably more so than Australia. I planned my days with sessions back to back. I ran from one workshop to the next. I started at the earliest session and stayed until the very last. I did not however, socialise much, which for me is quite unusual. Harrison would sometimes catch the shuttle into town and meet me for lunch. Each afternoon I would meet him and we would share our days events. 

I had just been asked to co-moderate #satchatoc, so I asked Brad Currie who I should meet and connect with while at ISTE13. Jimmy Casas @casas_jimmy, Jerry Blumengarten @cybraryman1 & Daisy Dyer Duerr @DaisyDyerDuerr were just a few he mentioned. I approached these total strangers to introduce myself. I began by saying, 'Brad Currie told me you were someone I should meet and connect with'. While uncomfortable at first, I was grateful for the introduction. Everyone was incredibly friendly.

Two years on and I returned to ISTE by myself and this time it was very different. I didn't attend workshops back to back. I chose one BYOD session per day (that's the limit) with another 1 or 2 workshops. This meant 2-3 workshops a day. I found this sufficient and allowed for more time to reflect and absorb. I was more selective as I now had more knowledge about the presenters and topics for which I have to thank my Professional Learning Network.

This year, I didn't rush to the opening keynote speaker. I watched it via Periscope from my hotel room, then walked up to watch the second half in the blogger's cafe. This is an area where people meet and connect. People connect with friends or those who they have known 'virtually' for years or even total strangers. It's strange... I have been trying to find a word to describe the feeling of seeing someone for the first time after you've got to know them through social media. I have shared my thoughts, opinions and feelings with these people through Twitter or Voxer or both. Even 'hanging out' or Skyping is different to meeting face to face.

Meeting face to face solidifies your friendship. It takes the relationship to another level. It adds another layer or dimension. I found it surreal when people recognised and chatted with me because they knew my profile picture. And yet, I did the same thing. I sheepishly approached some educators, which resulted in some great conversations. Instead of people being friendly towards me, I now had friends at ISTE.

These organic conversations were just as powerful and beneficial as some of the well-prepared presentations. This ISTE was much more enjoyable. I balanced my accumulation of knowledge with social events. ISTE provided a learning experience but also provided a learning environment where people connected and learned from each other unconditionally. By unconditionally, I mean, you can chose the time, the place, the person, and the topic. We had a conference and an un-conference all rolled into one. I think this is the perfect balance.
Gratitude Journal-

@tina_p - for introducing me to some wonderful educators & experiences at ISTE.
The Aussies @ ISTE - it was great meeting and reconnecting with you all.
To my Professional Learning Network-For those who I met for the first time at ISTE and those who support me from afar. I've grown because of you!
My family- for supporting my passion of education.


  1. Andrea
    I can't imagine you not been social. What a lovely way you have conveyed self reflection of the first ISTE, how you approached the second conference and your growth in between. The networks and the relationships in education are very important. I agree meeting face to face after getting to know someone on Twitter can be a bit weird and compelling at the same time. I have really enjoyed watching your Ed venture on Twitter. Thank you for being the person you are and sharing ISTE awesomeness. I look forward to catching up with you when you get home. 

    1. Thanks Simon for taking the time to read this and for your kind comments. We will definitely catch up next holidays if not before-maybe at a TeachMeet. Appreciate you being part of my PLN & my friend.

  2. Dear Andrea,
    Your warmth, generosity and kindness is something I will not forget. I loved learning from you and with you and am so glad that we had time together. Thank you for your willingness to spend time with me, it was truly an honor.

    1. You are so kind Pernille. Meeting you, learning from you and having fun with you was definitely a highlight. So glad we connected at ISTE-start of a new kind of friendship.